I was delighted to receive an advance copy of this book in return for my honest opinion. First off, I have to say that I love fantasy and it has always been a favourite genre of mine. This book is a compilation of short stories, something I very seldom read. I was a little apprehensive but I’m glad I received this book and it has changed my opinion of short stories completely. I always thought of short stories as being too short to actually capture the mind or attention. I didn’t feel that they would build the characters or allow me to become engrossed. I was terribly wrong and Beyond the Pale has proven that to me.
Beyond the Pale contains eleven dark fantasy, urban fantasy and paranormal short stories by award-winning and New York Times bestselling authors:
- Hooves and the Hovel of Abdel Jameela by Saladin Ahmed
- The Children of the Shark God by Peter S. Beagle
- Misery by Heather Brewer
- Shadow Children by Heather Brewer
- Even Hand by Jim Butcher
- Red Run by Kami Garcia
- Pale Rider by Nancy Holder
- The Adventures of Lightning Merriemouse-Jones by Nancy Holder
- Frost Child by Gillian Philip
- South by Gillian Philip
- A Knot of Toads by Jane Yolen
All of these short stories have their own merits and selling points and they all capture your attention and draw you in from the first paragraph. What really surprised me was the depth in the characters and how even with a short story you could become them, feel their emotions, go through their trials and tribulations and endure what they faced. The authors wrote each story beautifully and the words flowed with ease. I actually found myself wanting more and that is always a good thing. One of stories that really stood out for me is “The Children of the Shark God” by Peter S. Beagle. This was beautifully written and flowed really well. It was a strange tale but one that fully took over as the pages turned. The emotions that consumed me and drew me into the story were ones that I would normally only find in a full length novel. I was amazed at how much a short story could grip me and yet still provide a complete tale. This really was a true work of art and the story was something I had never read before. It wasn’t a rehash of Twilight or vampire romance. It wasn’t a shape-shifting or werewolf tale; it was something totally different and new and there is an excerpt below for those interested in reading some of it.
All in all, this book is definitely one for my collection and one that I know I will recommend to friends. It is one that I can pull out when I need a quick read that will completely absorb my mind and take me to a new world of fantasy, where anything is possible. I also know that I will be diving into the novels of these best-selling authors too because their work is truly amazing and they have mastered the art of creating believable characters that draw you in and allow you to become part of their lives.
I really enjoyed the stories contained in this anthology and each one is so different. They are memorable and will stick with you for quite some time after reading and there are a few that will have you questioning yourself and your beliefs too. You will find stories about Gods, ghosts, magic and so much more in this collection and there really is something for everyone.
Published by www.birchtreepub.com, Beyond the Pale is a great collection and one that has proven to me that short stories can bring just as much reading pleasure as a full length novel when written in the manner of those in this book. Available on Amazon Kindle now. http://www.amazon.com/Beyond-
The Children of the Shark God Excerpt
Once there was a village on an island that belonged to the Shark God. Every man in the village was a fisherman, and the women cooked their catch and mended their nets and sails, and painted their little boats. And because that island was sacred to him, the Shark God saw to it that there were always fish to be caught, and seals as well, in the waters beyond the coral reef, and protected the village from the great gray typhoons that came every year to flood other lagoons and blow down the trees and the huts of other islands. Therefore the children of the village grew fat and strong, and the women were beautiful and strong, and the fishermen were strong and high-hearted even when they were old.
In return for his benevolence the Shark God asked little from his people: only tribute of a single goat at the turn of each year. To the accompaniment of music and prayers, and with a wreath of plaited fresh flowers around its neck, it would be tethered in the lagoon at moonrise. Morning would find it gone, flower petals floating on the water, and the Shark God never seen—never in that form, anyway.
Now the Shark God could alter his shape as he pleased, like any god, but he never showed himself on land more than once in a generation. When he did, he was most often known to appear as a handsome young man, light-footed and charming. Only one woman ever recognized the divinity hiding behind the human mask. Her name was Mirali, and this tale is what is known about her, and about her children.
Mirali’s parents were already aging when she was born, and had long since given up the hope of ever having a child—indeed, her name meant “the long-desired one.” Her father had been crippled when the mast of his boat snapped during a storm and crushed his leg, falling on him, and if it had not been for their daughter, the old couple’s lives would have been hard indeed. Mirali could not go out with the fishing fleet herself, of course—as she greatly wished to do, having loved the sea from her earliest memory—but she did every kind of work for any number of island families, whether cleaning houses, marketing, minding young children, or even assisting the midwife when a birthing was difficult or there were simply too many babies coming at the same time. She was equally known as a seamstress, and also as a cook for special feasts; nor was there anyone who could mend a pandanus-leaf thatching as quickly as she, though this is generally man’s work. No drop of rain ever penetrated any pandanus roof that came under Mirali’s hands.
Nor did she complain of her labors, for she was very proud of being able to care for her mother and father as a son would have done. Because of this, she was much admired and respected in the village, and young men came courting just as though she were a great beauty. Which she was not, being small and somewhat square-made, with straight brows—considered unlucky by most—and hips that gave no promise of a large family. But she had kind eyes, deep-set under those regrettable brows, and hair as black and thick as that of any woman on the island. Many, indeed, envied her; but of that Mirali knew nothing. She had no time for envy herself, nor for young men, either.
Now it happened that Mirali was often chosen by the village priest to sweep out the temple of the Shark God. This was not only a grand honor for a child barely turned seventeen but a serious responsibility as well, for sharks are cleanly in their habits, and to leave his spiritual dwelling disorderly would surely be to dishonor and anger the god himself. So Mirali was particularly attentive when she cleaned after the worshippers, making certain that no prayer whistle or burned stick of incense was left behind. And in this manner did the Shark God become aware of Mirali.